The Three-Second Rule, Maintaining a Three-Second Gap Behind the Preceding Vehicle, Fosters Safer Driving on New Jersey Roads
On a daily basis, millions of commuters, tourists, and commercial vehicles fill the highways and roads of the densely populated Garden State. Over half a million vehicles travel on the New Jersey Turnpike alone each day. One of the most common causes of car accidents in NJ is motorists not keeping a safe distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. Conversely, maintaining proper distance and speed are the best ways to avoid a motor vehicle accident.
A tragic recent accident early on New Year’s Day in nearby Queens, New York, in which 5 young adults were killed and another driver injured, serves as a cautionary tale for drivers to always be vigilant when driving, maintain proper distance with other vehicles, and observe the speed limit.
Maintaining a Minimum 10-Foot Distance Can Make a Difference
Under NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-39, drivers in New Jersey are required to keep a distance of at least 10 feet between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. It is key to note that the statute requires drivers to maintain a minimum of 10 feet. At all times, drivers have a legal duty to drive as a reasonably prudent driver under the circumstances. It is possible that inclement weather, icy roads, and extreme fog conditions could warrant even 10 feet of an unsafe distance between cars. In these situations, it may be necessary to maintain 15 or 20 feet of distance to avoid the risk of a collision.
Understanding and Applying the “Three-Second Rule”
The three-second rule refers to a common guideline for keeping a safe distance between vehicles that advocates for staying at least three seconds worth of drive time behind the vehicle in front of you. To implement this rule, you can look for a stationary landmark ahead of the vehicle in front of you. When you see the vehicle pass the landmark, begin counting until you pass the landmark. If you pass the landmark before reaching 3 seconds, then you are following too closely.
Surveying the Causes Too-Close Following Behavior
People drive too closely for all sorts of different reasons. To put it bluntly, some people are simply careless, and driving too closely to the vehicle in front of them is part of their driving style. Other drivers may follow another vehicle closely because they are frustrated with the slower speed at which that vehicle is driving. This is known as tailgating, which can result in serious accidents.
Drivers may also drive too close to other vehicles as they try to avoid getting stuck behind a red light and move quickly through traffic lights by following the car in front of them closely.
The Domino Effect of Rear-End Collisions and Their Consequences
It is no surprise that the most common type of accident caused by following another vehicle too closely is rear-end collision. Rear-end collisions can range from minor fender benders at lower speeds to catastrophic and even deadly accidents at high speeds. In the United States, each year, there are over 2 million rear-end collisions on the roadways, and almost 2,000 of these annual rear-end accidents are fatal. As keeping adequate distance between cars allows for proper braking time, it is easy to see how a majority of these accidents and deaths could be avoided if drivers maintained a safe distance between their vehicle and the one in front of them. Failing to maintain proper distance between vehicles on the roadways can also create a domino effect of rear-end collisions and a multi-car pileup.
Escalation of Injuries after a Collision
The majority of rear-end collisions are minor, resulting in minor injuries like whiplash to the neck. However, the greater the speed at which the vehicle behind is traveling (the slower the vehicle in front is traveling), the greater the impact of the collision will be, resulting in more serious injuries. These injuries may include spinal injuries to the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine, concussions, and even internal injuries. A strong impact from behind can cause a car to be pushed forward and lose control. This can cause the driver in front to hit something else, like an electric pole, and be ejected from the vehicle or hit their head on the windshield, causing severe brain injury.
The Thin Line Between Prudence and Negligence
Driving too close to other vehicles is the most common cause of rear-end collisions. It is almost invariably the vehicle that hits another from behind that is negligent for causing the accident, as every driver has a legal duty to drive as a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances and driving too closely to another vehicle for the given road conditions or less than 10 feet away at any time is not prudent driving.
New Jersey is a no-fault state for insurance purposes, but depending on the type of insurance policies of the parties involved, fault or negligence is still relevant in determining each party’s responsibility for compensating the other for damages.
Find out if You Can Sue a Driver for Causing an Accident while Driving too Close in New Jersey
New Jersey’s “no-fault” system can make navigating accident insurance claims and recovery of damages for injuries, property damage, and time off from work complex. If you have been injured in a rear-end collision or any other type of collision in which a vehicle was driving too close to yours in Belmar, Red Bank, Long Branch, Rumson, Point Pleasant, Asbury Park, Middletown, Ocean Township, Howell, Colts Neck, or elsewhere in Monmouth County, Ocean County, and New Jersey, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages.
A skilled and experienced New Jersey personal injury lawyer at Chamlin, Uliano, & Walsh can examine your case and determine whether you have a cause of action, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and work to recover the compensation you deserve. To discuss your case, please call 732-440-3950 for a complimentary consultation.